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4 Reasons The Networks’ Fall Line Up Has Failed to Produce a Breakout Hit Series

October 14, 2010

Like mom's meatloaf, CBS's Blue Bloods has crusty comfort down to a science!

Why aren’t you watching the overly hyped and seemingly interchangeable new network programming?

1. The Networks can’t schedule for beans!

Who was the brain trust behind the decision to schedule Hawaii Five-O – the most DVR’d show – anywhere near ESPN’s juggernaut Monday Night Football? Seems as though a better option would be to air the second most DVR’d show Blue Bloods, the cop show equivalent to Mom’s meatloaf, rather than setting Hawaii Five-O up for failure by pitting against a show chasing the same audience. Most of the people I know who watch football leave the set tuned to the “football” channel all night. Xena forbid they should miss whatever commentary is being offered by the revolving door of middle aged, balding ex football players in ill fitting and often times shiny suits.

2. Audiences are gun shy!

Every time I asked someone why they aren’t actively seeking out the network offerings I heard variations of the same theme, “I don’t want to get invested in a series they’re probably going to cancel (before resolving) anyway.” Usually followed by mention of some show they liked – Moonlight and FlashFoward being the most often cited examples. Not every show can be an out-of-the-gate hit. Cable seems to understand this and gives their shows a chance to find their audience. If networks were willing to do the same maybe audiences would return. Oh who am I kidding…

3. The networks are bad at pretending to be Cable!

Many of the new shows – Undercovers, The Whole Truth and The Wire/H:LOTS wannabe Detroit 187 – uh, producers, you realize that’s not the Michigan penal code designation for murder, right? – seem so cablelicious, but not necessarily in a good way. Like in a first generation cable original programming Silk Stalkings, early eps of Babylon 5 (before it got better) Son of a Beach kind of way. That’s not doing the networks any favors either! I loved Christopher like whoa. But you know who I liked better – Tony Soprano! I don’t know who told Michael Imperioli he could lead an ensemble, but they lied. Can I get Gandolfini back on my TV? I don’t care if he stars in a sitcom where he runs a daycare center called Tony’s Tots!

4. The shows stink!

The list of stinky new offerings is too long, but I already wrote about the ones that reek the most. Of the new offerings, Blue Bloods is really the only one I’d consider watching regularly. In fact, now that fall season is well under way my viewing habits have to returned to normal. By normal I mean, watching Grey’s Anatomy – the only network show I watch and it’s not even all that, I’m just terribly addicted – plowing through some of my faded faves and waiting for Leverage to return to TNT in December.

What about you?

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. meganwhitney permalink
    October 14, 2010 11:07 am

    I wondered that about Hawaii Five-0 too. I hope it doesn’t get cancelled. I don’t know what I would do without my weekly Daniel Dae Kim fix. No LOST, no Hawaii Five-0… perhaps he could have a sitcom!

  2. October 14, 2010 11:09 am

    I seem to only be capable of tuning into new fall programming every other year — last year I gave FlashForward and V reboot my attention, and they both bored me, frankly, I stopped watching after 5-6 episodes. I may give the second half of the season of V a chance when it comes out on DVD next month, since they did actually get renewed for a second season.

    I decided this summer/fall to catch up on older cable shows I missed the first go round — Rome and Deadwood. Thanks for verifying that I made the right choice!

  3. October 14, 2010 11:27 am

    I’m with you on Grey’s Anatomy and Leverage. I’m also somewhat addicted to Mad Men. I gave Undercovers a shot and I like it, but don’t find it quite compelling enough for appointment TV.

  4. October 14, 2010 12:09 pm

    Yeah, I think I’d rather wait until Undercovers is on DVD and watch it all at once. I suspect it will be more entertaining that way.

    @MW – I am baffled by CBS decision. It just seems like someone dropped the ball. Hawaii Five-O is the only real shot CBS has at giving the ageing CSI franchise and those of us who are tired of it, a well deserved rest.

    @raymond – I tried the new V and it just didn’t have the magic or cheesiness of the original. There was something special about watching those 80s ladies sliding rats past their “Heart of Glass” glossy lips that the reboot lacks.

  5. October 14, 2010 12:12 pm

    @snarky: it’s true it’s not really V – it’s more like the sequel to the show The 4400, which I LOVED.

  6. October 14, 2010 12:26 pm

    @Raymond – I have wondered if the 4400 was any good. I am wary of any show that requires a heavy investment, unless it stars Glenn Close or Timothy Elephant/Olyphant. I might need to give that there 4400 a shot.

  7. October 14, 2010 12:46 pm

    100% agree with reasons #3 and #4. I surprised myself by how many new shows I watched last season (Modern Family, Glee, Cougar Town, latter half of Community), but it was a good season for new shows.

    This season, there’s nothing that premiered I once thought I’d make time for, except maybe Undercovers, but I just couldn’t get into. And now I’m barely watching the shows I listed above too.

    Like @raymondj, I’m enjoying watching cable series on DVD instead. Not only are you guaranteed better quality, but there’s no waiting to see the next episode either.

  8. October 14, 2010 1:15 pm

    I’m with y’all the ability to watch a season’s worth of programming at one time is one of the biggest factors in whether or not I’ll get invested in a show. Once Undercovers or Blue Bloods hits DVD I’ll probably have a lot more to say about both, since I will have watched more than a handful of episodes.

    I’ve been recently watching Damages and there’s no way in heck I’d be able to watch this ish as appointment TV.

  9. October 14, 2010 1:37 pm

    1. When I saw that “Blue Bloods” was going to be on Friday night, my initial thought was that CBS doesn’t have a lot of faith in this show. But on second thought, I figured that they were trying to “reclaim” the TV sched, and get people who maybe aren’t as able to attend those 15 buck 3D movies and are staying at home watching their 3D HDTVs and giving them something to do. If you see this starting to happen on Saturdays, then you’ll know something is really up.

    But I agree that the scheduling has not been the best, most well planned in the history of the small screen.

    2. I don’t know that this is so valid, since we all want to try out the new programs. The question is whether there’s something there that we think will hold our interest, and that’s where the pilots have to demonstrate what the potential is. We have to have a hint about where the series is going, and that means learning about who the characters, we’re spending time with, are. Unfortunately, we have a lot of lackluster characters this season, *coughhawaiifiveocough* and that drags everything down. I think there’s some good stuff going on, but if some of the most important characters on these series are dead weight, that’s going to kill off a show faster than a bad time slot.

    3. Casting over content. The Networks (most especially ABC) got it wrong. They thought that tossing big names into an ensemble would make everything work. What they didn’t do was get some more brilliant premises up and running, and more believable scripts together. My Generation. No Ordinary Family. Detroit 187. The Whole Truth. All guilty as charged. And really, propping up this Desperate Housewives show with Vanessa Williams? I seriously haven’t viewed an episode of that show in at least 5 years.

    4. This really is #1, though, isn’t it? The comedy shows are stupid. The dramas are laughable. Who is responsible for the writing here? Where’s the smarter, more relevant topical material that audiences are hungering for? Where is a show that people want to talk about that maybe doesn’t involve dancing?!

    But then again, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire is basically the breakout hit, although you have to pay to see it. Does that count?

  10. October 14, 2010 1:37 pm

    the last few years the only new network show I watched got canceled. My Own Worst Enemy with Christian Slater was great I thought. I was/still am mad as hell. Now I don’t bother to watch anything because I want to know a story ends once I have started.

  11. October 14, 2010 1:42 pm

    @snarky: The 4400 is kinda like Heroes plus X-Files plus this beard:

  12. October 14, 2010 1:58 pm

    But then again, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire is basically the breakout hit, although you have to pay to see it. Does that count?

    It’s a good show, but it’s getting a bit overpraised like Mad Men. Buscemi is not a leading man and he isn’t enough to carry the show. They are going to need to shore up some more strong players or else this thing will go the way of Rome. Of course they’ll blame it on “budgeting” costs. I really like Boardwalk Empire, but I’m not in love with it. It isn’t zapping me in the face with its brill the way The Sopranos did.

  13. evmaroon permalink
    October 14, 2010 5:52 pm

    @raymondj: I loved the 4400 mini-series, but I found the series too convoluted, like the 3rd season of Lost, so I stopped watching (both).

    @snarkysmachine: I am trying to give Detroit 187 a chance, but mostly because I have an affection for Detroit, and I appreciate that any series is shooting on location. I do keep expecting to see Impereoli shoot heroin in between his toes, though. And hello, producers, neither is 187 the code for homicide in Detroit, nor are there that few people of color on the force. What’s up with the whitewashing?

  14. October 14, 2010 11:01 pm

    @Snarky’s you’re absolutely right: Boardwalk Empire is overpraised, but that’s only because there’s nothing else worth praising out there! Personally I don’t like the color palette, Buscemi is always quality in whatever he does, but he is a character actor as the lead, there’s not a lot of likable stuff here, and although there is a lot of material to work with, it’s sorta a costume drama Sopranos, and unless we are going to start doing some veiled reference to our current life and times, I don’t quite see the point.

  15. October 15, 2010 9:56 am

    Personally I don’t like the color palette, Buscemi is always quality in whatever he does, but he is a character actor as the lead, there’s not a lot of likable stuff here, and although there is a lot of material to work with, it’s sorta a costume drama Sopranos, and unless we are going to start doing some veiled reference to our current life and times, I don’t quite see the point.

    The color palette does not work with HDTV and I found that pretty surprising. I didnt’ realize there were things that didn’t look better in HDTV (besides ageing stars with botched plastic surgery and the scars, sutures and staples to prove it).

    Buscemi is defnitely one of the best characters actors we have. It’s really hard to ask him to carry the weight of a leading role, since by default, leading roles don’t always afford the actor the type of freedom that roles designed for characters actors do. Think: Tony Soprano vs. Sil or Christopher.

  16. October 16, 2010 8:24 pm

    I’m generally open about my tv addiction but I’m with you – this year, there is nothing new that I’m in to and a few old favorites I’m not even keeping up with in the new season.

    Undercovers was suppose to be the it series for me this year – I loved Mr and Mrs Smith and I am a diehard Chuck fan (even in the terrible terrible writing that is this season of THAT show), so Undercovers is suppose to be right up my alley but it feels like it belongs on ABC Family. The rawness that Pitt and Jolie brought to those roles is completely absent and who wants to watch a spy couple hang out doing spy stuff while talking about how much they like eachother?

    I am still liking Raising Hope which is the only new 30 minute sitcom that I’m watching this year. It is Married with Children like in its humor but sometimes I want my TV to offend me just a little, without going all Wild Boyz about it.

    Last year, Community – which really only got better in the second half of the season – and Modern Family were the only 2 new shows I got at all interested in so maybe I’m just a 2 shows a season girl but there were other shows on last season that I didn’t MIND watching. Of course, last season there was also like, what, 3 terrible medical dramas? So maybe hindsight is not 20/20 but all rosy and sepia toned.

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